Moving at the speed of technology can be a challenge for large organizations where change often doesn’t come quickly. But that’s not stopping RBC – an 80,000-person company – from taking a fresh approach to fostering a start-up mentality across its global businesses.
Enter RBC Amplify, an innovative program launched in summer 2016 that draws the brightest technology students to RBC for a summer-long challenge to develop solutions to real-world business problems, like detecting sophisticated cyber bots and satisfying an increasingly mobile client base.
In only its second year, the Amplify program has become a game-changer in bringing new perspectives and talent into the organization.
The program attracts aspiring professionals like Michael Dubois, a back-end computer software developer who studied information technology (IT) at the University of Minnesota. Dubois came to RBC hoping to build his skills and get his feet wet in the corporate environment—what he got was the foundation for his future.
“The Amplify program was even better than I expected. Creating a new piece of software from scratch is one of the best learning experiences for somebody just getting started in IT,” DuBois says. “I learned how to take a broad business problem, drill down to its core issue, and solve it.”
Dubois joined Caroline DeMarco, user interface/user experience designer; Yulduz Pulatova, front-end developer; and Elizabeth Schneider, business analyst; to form the first Amplify team at RBC Wealth Management-U.S. Their Minneapolis-based team was one of 16 in the 2017 Amplify program, comprised of 64 students in three countries.
The 2017 Minneapolis Amplify team (from left): Yulduz Pulatova, Michael Dubois, Elizabeth Schneider and Caroline DeMarco
The Minneapolis team kicked off its work at the end of May with a one-week intensive orientation covering technology development principles like design thinking and agile methodology, then the team set out to define and build a viable product in just six weeks.
“I was surprised that we were truly given full autonomy over the project,” DuBois says. “I could address the business problem however I wanted to with whatever technology I wanted to use.”
Working independently, the students received guidance from a pair of RBC Wealth Management leaders who served as coaches, and two executive sponsors who provided feedback at project milestones.
“RBC Amplify helps bring fresh ideas and innovative approaches into our organization,” says Amit Sahasrabudhe, head of strategy and technology for RBC Wealth Management-U.S., who served as a sponsor for the Minneapolis team. “These students are impressive and challenge us to accelerate our progress.”
Trophy display near the stage at the 2017 Amp Expo
The culmination of the program was the “Amp Expo” in August, when all 16 teams came together at RBC headquarters in Toronto to pitch their work to RBC executives, make professional connections, and celebrate the significant achievements of the summer.
The two-day expo attracted hundreds of RBC employees who came to meet the teams and learn about their projects, which ranged from exploring blockchain technology to banking apps to data security solutions.
With much anticipation, the Minneapolis team presented their solution. The tool they developed impressed business leaders – so much so that RBC filed for a provisional patent to protect the technology, and plans to implement it in the business as soon as possible.
“Client experience is our top priority and our team developed a practical solution to a real challenge our financial advisors face,” Sahasrabudhe says.
Michael DuBois (left) signing his patent paperwork, along with Oren Kumer, RBC Amplify program manager
At the end of the summer, most RBC Amplify participants return to school with resumes more impressive than those of many seasoned professionals.
For DuBois, who graduated last May, the program led to an offer for employment at RBC Wealth Management and he is now working as an application developer full time.
One of his first projects will be helping implement the tool he and his teammates created.
“There is currently a big push within RBC to enhance their digital systems,” he says. “It is exciting to be a part of it.”